School district officials in Massachusetts have been accused of covering up disturbing incidents of alleged hazing that occurred on a high school hockey team.
An investigation by the Boston Globe found serious allegations of homophobic and racist hazing and other offensive acts by some members of the Danvers High School hockey team, and that school and town officials sought to sweep the matter under the rug after the alleged misconduct was brought to their attention.
The alleged hazing came to light when school officials were investigating separate allegations that three hockey team members at the head of the school’s graduation parade hurled racist slurs at Black sanitation workers on the parade route. The players denied the allegations, but the investigation did eventually lead one student to reveal his forced hazing experiences, as well as group text messages among players that contained many offensive and racist utterances regarding Jewish and Black folks.
The unnamed student spoke to the Globe on the condition of anonymity. He described two specific acts of hazing called “Gay Tuesday” and “Hard R Friday,” which took place in the locker room at the teams’ home rink, Endicott College’s Raymond J. Bourque Arena in nearby Beverly.
Gay Tuesday allegedly involved players being forced to strip naked in the locker room before practice. “The lights go off, then people go around touching people, and when the lights come back on, you have to guess who’s touching you,” the alleged victim recalled.
He added the experience seem foolish and felt like hazing, but that “some people were having fun with it.”
On Hard R Fridays (an alleged reference to the last letter of the anti-Black racial slur), team leaders would force random players to yell the n-word. If they refused, they were smacked on the face with a pink dildo named “The Pink Dragon” until a mark was left. The victim alleged he was eventually targeted and assaulted when he refused to yell the racial epithet.
“They wanted to make a mark with it,” he said. “That’s how it worked.”
The unnamed player declined to press charges against his teammates, saying that while they were “portraying their racism,” he also felt they “needed to do it to survive.”
“I don’t hate any of those kids,” he said. “They are a product of their environment.”
Instead, he said he wanted the parents and adults to be held responsible for creating an environment that affirmed racism and homophobia. He said it was not possible the coaches didn’t know of the hazing rituals. He described one incident where an assistant coach entered the locker room and found a nude player dancing in front of his naked teammates. The victim said the players told the coach it was Gay Tuesday when asked for an explanation. The coach then allegedly replied “I don’t want to know” before shutting off the lights and leaving. The player also said it would have been impossible not to notice Hard R Fridays, as players were forced to scream the racial slur.
The player said he was shocked when the district’s final summary report from the investigation made no mention of the locker room allegations. The police chief at the time, the late Patrick Ambrose, wrote a letter stating all 15 players interviewed denied being physically assaulted. The player vehemently denied Ambrose’s claim, stating he was one of those interviewed.
According to the report, some in the community feel officials tried to sweep the incidents under the rug because it reflected negatively on the team’s former coach, Stephen Baldassare. Baldassare is a local sports legend in the community and a respected member of the police department.
For his part, Baldassare wrote a letter to the “DHS Hockey Families” saying he and the program had “learned from this experience and we will focus on creating a positive, supportive, respectful, and inclusive team environment for seasons to come.”
Word came in July that Baldassare had resigned when the school posted his former position on its annual hockey job listing.